Friday, December 2, 2011

The Many Faces of Uncle Zack

      One of the very few advantages of living into your 50’s is that during that decade the universe lets you in on certain little secrets. I recently discovered that I have two distinct personalities. Not in the Sybil or three faces of Eve sort of disorder, but the world sees different me’s at different times. I call them Stageshow Johnny and the Dullard.
      Stageshow Johnny is the me most people meet at social gatherings. He is funny, quick-witted, talented and usually the life of the party. He can do all kinds of amazing things that often amazes him as much as it amazes the people he’s entertaining. The problem is that being Stageshow Johnny is exhausting and breeds resentment and hostility from regular guys whose wives or girlfriends are suddenly flirting with him.
      At one party Stageshow told a story that left everybody in stitches. Everyone laughed except one guy. Later, now very drunk, he comes over to Stageshow (who has now reverted to the Dullard) and is sitting alone, trying to look inconspicuous.
      “Think you’re funny, huh?” he asks, “like being a big shot? Think you’re better than everyone else; think you’re better than me?”
      Problem is the Dullard has no answer for this. The Dullard avoids people, is hypersensitive, shy and possesses the social skills of a bag of cement. The Dullard is the personality who spends 8 to 10 hours copyediting, or photo shopping, or some other mind-numbing task. He is also wary of people so he keeps to himself. And now he has to deal with this ‘You think you’re better than me,’ crap. Well he can’t.
      But Stageshow can.
      “Do I think I’m better than you?” Stageshow replies with a look of mock puzzlement. “Well of course I think I’m better than you. I think I’m better than everybody. What, you somebody special? You think you’re the only person I’m not better than, huh? The only one? Wow, you got some ego, pal.”
     This cracks everyone up and embarrasses drunk guy who will spend the next decade plotting revenge on the Dullard, who as a result, will become even more withdrawn.
      The Dullard causes an equal amount of trouble but in his own way. Every so often, a person who was introduced to Stageshow at a party or music fair or book fair sees him, comes over and tries to engage him in conversation only to discover that the Dullard has nothing to say.
      “What’s the matter, you sick or something?” the Stageshow devotee asks as the conversation falls flat. “You were all buddy, buddy, with me at the party but now you’re giving me the cold shoulder?”
      The Dullard has now all but shut down, anticipating a barrage of hateful and insulting comments when Stageshow Johnny shows up and subsequently make things worse.
      “I believe there’s been a misunderstanding,” he says. “You have apparently mistaken me for my twin brother Zackary. When you said we met at a party I realized you thought I was him. I’m Ignatius, nice to meet you.” With that Stageshow sticks out his hand. The guy shakes it. Confused, he eyes Stageshow and says, “I’m sorry, it’s just that you’re a dead ringer for your brother. Speaking of which, how’s your brother doing?”
      “He’s dead. He was riding on one of those Florida Everglades boats, you know, the ones with the big metal fans on the back. Well, his flipped over and before he could reach land he was set upon and eaten by crocodiles, which was quite serendipitous because in his last novel, titled, “Geez, I Hope We Don’t Get Eaten by Crocodiles, the main characters, while sitting on the porch drinking Kentucky bourbon are set upon and eaten by crocodiles. Isn’t it amazing how life imitates art?”  
      The guy smiles oddly then makes his excuses to be on his way. Stageshow feels amazingly clever, the Dullard throws up.